Violence in stores

Reducing violence in Canadian retail settings

Retail-related violence is on the rise in Canada. As part of the country’s largest working sector, employees are put into unnecessary physical danger on a day-to-day basis — and it can be prevented.

RCC is tirelessly searching for new solutions to prevent violence in Canada’s retail work environments, linking police services, government officials, and store employees to find an end to indiscriminate attacks on the country’s retail workforce.

Advocating for retailers

Law enforcement engagement

Retailers have cited more instances of violent individuals and repetitive prolific offenders that put employees in physical danger since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RCC actively advocates for a constructive relationship with local police services, courts and government agencies. Collaboration is critical for dealing with the frequency of violence in retail – especially when it comes to repeat offenders. RCC is working with members, police and courts to change the perception that all retail theft is a victimless crime or a crime against property. In fact, many retail staff and in some cases customers are regularly victimized during the commission of retail thefts.

How police respond to emergency calls where there is a threat or real presence of violence, what officers do upon arrival, and how offenders are treated need to be altered in order to reduce the cases of violence and see the level of recidivism decrease.

RCC has recently brought police together with retailers to address concerns, work on finding best practices and provide both parties with solutions.

Governmental support

The pandemic has impaired Canada’s court system in multiple ways, subsequently minimizing its capacity to prosecute low-level crimes and property theft cases. However, it is critical that theft cases that involve violence, assault and threat of harm are not treated as low-level crimes and property theft cases, as there are people who are being impacted.

RCC is advocating that Canada’s courts better prosecute those who commit crimes in retail spaces, especially in cases of assault or repeat offenders. RCC pushes for divergent, alternative response measures to ensure offenders are provided adequate rehabilitation methods – for their and the employees’ sake.

It’s crucial the provincial and federal levels collaborate to address these issues that millions of Canadians working in retail have to face on a daily basis.

On-the-ground support

Ensuring staff is as well-equipped as possible is an integral – and controllable – element for the retail sector to focus time and resources on.

Private guards, popularized during the pandemic in various customer-facing roles, do present certain solutions – transferring first aid, CPR, and de-escalation liabilities onto a professional – but are not viable for retailers with limited budgets.

RCC is in ongoing discussions with partners to create de-escalation training and best practices that can be utilized by retailers and their employees.

One of those training elements, “De-escalation tips for retailers” (see all resources below), gives instructions to staff members on how to defuse violent incidents effectively. Instruction includes focusing on solutions, the importance of showing empathy, and how to use non-threatening body language and tone of voice.

RCC continues to push for potential legal changes that would allow staff more protection and more support.

Tools and Resources

De-escalation tips for retailers

How you respond to aggressive customers can be the key to avoiding a physical confrontation. These 10 de-escalation tips will help you respond to difficult behaviour in the safest, most effective way possible. Read guide.

Best practices for crowd management

As COVID public health requirements continue to evolve and impact retail settings, effective crowd management must be prioritized by retailers.

This guide includes some useful suggestions that are particularly helpful in managing crowds. Read guide.

Best practices for creating a retail security strategy

Whether it’s to prepare for holiday season, upcoming sales, or general preparation, a good security strategy will help protect staff, merchandise, and stores.

This comprehensive checklist will help retailers communicate and maintain security strategies with staff. Read guide.

Actions to prevent workplace violence

Employee training on workplace violence typically covers definitions and types of violence, risk factors and warning signs for violence, prevention strategies, and ways to respond to threatening, potentially violent, or violent situations. This guide provides recommendations to mitigate potentially volatile situations. Read guide.